Papal Honorees from top left: Sr. Anne Marie Warren, OSF; Sr. Krista von Borstel, SSMO; Clint Bentz; Fr. Jack Topper, OSM; Cathy Shannon; Russ Danielson.
Most Rev. John Vlazny Archbishop Emeritus of Portland
They say that actions speak louder than words. If so, Pope Benedict XVI has spoken loudly by honoring six wonderful people who are outstanding disciples in mission here in our Catholic Church of western Oregon. It was in late July that I learned from the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington, D.C., Most Rev. Carlo Maria Viganó, that Father Jack Topper, OSM; Sr. M. Krista von Borstel, SSMO; Sr. Anne Marie Warren, OSF; Mr. Clint Bentz; Mr. Russ Danielson and Mrs. Cathy Shannon will be receiving the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross, an award bestowed by the Pope on persons, both laity and clergy, who have given outstanding service to the church. The Archbishop forwarded the diplomas and insignias to my office and I will confer these honors on Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. This day is an especially appropriate time to honor these individuals since it marks the beginning of the Year of Faith.
The award was first established by Pope Leo XIII in 1888 to commemorate his golden jubilee of ordination to the priesthood. The original honorees were those who had aided and promoted the Pope’s jubilee. But now it is given for distinguished service to the church and it is the highest medal that can be awarded to the laity by the Pope. The medal are cast in gold in the form of a cross made octangular by a fleur-de-lis fixed in the angles of the cross. The adverse of the current medal depicts the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul. On the left arm of the cross is the inscription Pro Ecclesia (For Church) and on the right arm of the cross is et Pontifice (and Pope). At the top arm of the cross is the Papal Coat of Arms. The reverse depicts a Greek cross.
Why would our Holy Father choose to honor these individuals? Good question. The answer, of course, is found in the distinguished service that these individuals have offered our church here in western Oregon. In honoring them, the Holy Father singles out special ministries provided by these individuals and many of their colleagues. Obviously there are other ministries and individuals that could and should be honored and probably will at some future date. But for now these seemed especially appropriate. Hopefully they will inspire more of you to share your time, treasure and talent as generously and effectively as these individuals.
Father Topper, a Servite priest, has been the Director of the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, commonly known as The Grotto, for some 22 years. The Grotto is an amazing spiritual oasis for people of Portland and visitors to this very unchurched city. It has grown especially popular with many of our Filipino and Vietnamese Catholics. Large gatherings take place there frequently. The shrine is 85 years old and going strong. How amazing it is for our limited Catholic population to have such a wonderful shrine in our midst, thanks to the generous service of Father Topper and his brother and sister Servites.
Sister Krista is a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon who for more than 25 years has embraced the consecrated life and has served as the Director of our Catholic Youth Organization/Camp Howard for the past fifteen years. When she assumed leadership great things began to happen for CYO/CH. I recently visited the camp and every year I note significant improvements. Last summer more than 1400 youngsters came to the camp for week-long activities. CYO reaches out to young people all across the greater Portland area as a home for youth and teen sports in various sites. In honoring Sr. Krista the Holy Father also recognizes the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon who this year completed their celebration of the 125th anniversary of their founding.
Sr. Anne Marie Warren is the Major Superior of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, an international community with religious in China, Canada and the United States. She and her sisters run a very important retreat center in Beaverton, Our Lady of Peace Retreat. The Center provides a wonderful setting for those seeking time for retreat or days of recollection. Sr. Anne Marie has also been a faithful member of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, representing the religious of the diocese. She is yet another one of the amazing women embracing consecrated life who serve our archdiocese so lovingly and generously.
Mr. Clint Bentz, son of one of the first archdiocesan permanent deacons, Deacon Ron Bentz, and father of another deacon, seminarian Mark Bentz, has been Chairman of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council the past six years. He has given nine years of his life to the Council. His leadership has really made a difference in the council’s efforts to serve as the chief planning body for our church’s essential mission of evangelization. He himself has a reputation for being an excellent evangelizer. He is a church and civic leader and has been particularly helpful in the recent archdiocesan capital campaign. Through his work pastoral councils, at the archdiocesan and parish level, are growing more effective in planning for the various pastoral activities that are essential for our church’s mission.
Russ Danielson served for many years as the Senior Vice-President/Chief Executive of Providence Health Services here in Portland. This honor should have been conferred upon him before his retirement two years ago, but better late than never, I hope. As we all know, health service is a complicated yet significant service which the church provides for our people. Catholic health care in Oregon, provided primarily through Providence Health and Services, serves some 60% of our state’s population. Russ Danielson and his coworkers at Providence have provided excellent leadership and effective partnership to the church in expanding effective health care wisely and widely. Mr. Danielson also served as a member of the Board of Directors of our Mount Angel Seminary. The church in western Oregon is justifiably proud of Catholic health care here in our archdiocese.
Last but not least, Cathy Shannon was singled out by our Holy Father because of her excellent work as Director of our Office of Religious Education and most recently as Director of our Office for Child Protection and Victim Assistance. In both areas she has done an outstanding job. The religious education of our children is essential for the future well-being of the church. But the need to right all the wrongs of child abuse in the past required the leadership of a person like Cathy and so a change in her duties was made. She has been attentive to detail and committed in her efforts to protect children and help those who have been victimized by perpetrators of child abuse.
Congratulations to these six fine Catholics, brothers and sisters of whom we can all be proud. Thanks too to all of you who have supported these important ministries and services of our archdiocesan church. They represent some of our most significant achievements during my fifteen-year tenure as archbishop.